Soft Drink Company To Sponsor Anti-War March

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

(Correction: Anti-war petition was not distributed by employees of Qibla Cola, but by organizers of anti-war march.)

London ( - A Muslim-run soft drink company is sponsoring an anti-war march in London next week in hopes of convincing Middle Eastern nations to actively oppose military action against Iraq.

"We're trying to pressurize regimes in the Muslim world to stop supporting U.S. policy," said Abdul-Hamid Ebrahim, a spokesman for Qibla Cola. "These countries are essentially regimes that have been bought off by the United States."

The "Muslim Unity Action March" will pass the London embassies of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Qatar and Pakistan on March 15.

Zafer Iqbal, Qibla Cola's managing director, will speak during the march along with other leading British Muslims.

Ebrahim said the company was also helping circulate an anti-war petition that has attracted 100,000 signatures.

Qibla Cola started in business earlier this year and Ebrahim said the company hopes it soon will be selling one million bottles of its sodas in Britain each month.

The company says its products "offer a real alternative for people concerned by the practices of the major Western multinationals" and "is based on the teachings of Islam."

Qibla has vowed to donate 10 percent of its products to Islamic Aid, a British charity that works in several Muslim nations.

"People across the whole of the Muslim world are against major Western brands," Ebrahim said. "They want to buy a product that doesn't support unjust policies."

Ebrahim said that because of legal reasons, he could not specifically mention any Western companies that Qibla's promotional literature refers to. Instead, he pointed to the Qibla Cola website, which contains several quotes linking Coca-Cola to Israel.

Coca-Cola officials in London did not respond to calls seeking comment Friday, but the company has in the past denied any affiliation with governments or political or religious groups.

Despite its unusual mix of politics and business, Qibla Cola was not the first soda product geared towards the Muslim world. Last year, Mecca Cola was launched by a French businessman.

British Muslims

Qibla Cola's entry into the political arena came as Britain's largest Muslim associations also voiced their opposition to war in Iraq.

In an open letter to Prime Minster Tony Blair, the Muslim Association of Britain said that opposition to war "runs deep through British society."

"(We) appeal to you to make the only brave and courageous decision, and to abolish all plans for attacking Iraq, and embark immediately on a campaign to resolve this issue diplomatically and peacefully," the organization wrote.

Blair met with Muslim leaders on Thursday, although the MAB declined to attend.

Polls indicate that overall British public support for a war rests largely on whether or not there is an additional Security Council resolution against Iraq.

One survey released this week found that 75 percent of Britons are prepared to back war with Iraq, but only 24 percent said they would support military action without another U.N. resolution.

The Muslim Council of Britain also urged the prime minister to "think hard and reconsider your position on invading Iraq."

In a statement, MCB secretary-general Iqbal Sacranie called for Britain and the United States to focus on resolving the situations in Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as the divided province of Kashmir.

"There can be no doubt about the problem of Saddam's notoriously despotic regime," Sacranie said. "The diplomatic and political course have not run out. If we believe in peace we should not be impatient. There cannot be any rush for war."

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